The songs and words of Philip Parris Lynott, the vagabond Irish poet of Thin Lizzy are just as relevant today as they were thirty years ago making it that much harder to believe that Philip, RIP, left us mere mortals and this "mortal coil" almost twenty five years ago. This year, the memory of Phil will be celebrated with the unveiling of a statue to his honor and memory in his hometown of Dublin bringing together all of the important ex-members of Lizzy, and a host of other renowned Irish musicians to sing his praises and raise a glass of cheer as only the Irish truly can.
Around the world, several other events, some annual happenings, will be taking place to commemorate the great man. One of these is the fourth annual "Thin Lizzy, A Celebration: The Music of Phil Lynott" at Healey's nightclub (yes that Jeff Healey) in Toronto Canada. Roger Costa, a lifetime Lizzy fanatic has poured his heart and soul into making this an ever improving and eagerly anticipated event on the Toronto music scene. For more information on these landmark events visit the following websites:
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Sea of Tranquility's Mike Blackburn sat down with Roger to discuss all things Lizzy and in particular, Phil Lynott. As a bonus, we were able to get some comments from Philomena, Phil's mom and author of the book "My Boy", about the life of Philip, soon to be a major motion picture release.
SOT (Mike): Roger introduce yourself to our readers, your upbringing and your current occupation.
-Over the past 20 years or so, I've worked in and around the music industry… everything from retail to managing bands. I've done publicity and promotions work at a record label, I've worked concert security and I've roadied. I've even done some engineering work and some production. I'm ok at a lot of things, but I'm not really good at anything! (laughing) For the past 8 ½ years I've been having a blast owning a record store on Yonge St. in Toronto called Monster Records.
SOT (Mike): When and how were you first introduced to the music of Lizzy? Were you hooked immediately? When did you become a fanatic?
-I had heard the North American hits, Jailbreak & Boys Are Back In Town on the radio when they were new, but I was only 9 or 10 at the time so they didn't strike too deep. I remember in my teens really digging Cold Sweat and Thunder & Lightning too, but I didn't get completely hooked until 1985, shortly before Phil Lynott's death. There's one of the bigger radio stations in town, Q107, that played the crap out of the 'Nineteen' 12" single. It was only available as an import at the time, but the DJ's loved it so much that it was in heavy rotation for a while. That was where it started. A few months later, purely by chance, I wound up hanging out with Brian Robertson, he was in town playing with Frankie Miller, and that was it. I went back and found everything I could get my hands on and I've been hardcore ever since.
Mike: How did the seed for your annual celebration first get planted?
-My wife and I had always wanted to visit Ireland and we finally made the trip over about 5 years ago. The one 'geek' thing I was going to allow myself was to give Philomena a call. I had heard from others that she was always happy to hear from and meet fans, so I thought "Why not give it a shot?"
As it turned out, things were pretty busy for Philomena at the time, she had stuff going on with her book, she was in meetings with the producer of the 'My Boy' movie… when I told her that it was ok if she was too busy to meet, she pretty much told me to shut up and that I'd come all this way, the least she could do is shake my hand.
Philomena wound up picking us up at the train station and showed us around. She's a pretty amazing lady and she's dedicated her life to keeping her son's memory alive.
By the time we got home, the wheels were turning. I had been so inspired by meeting Philomena that I felt I really wanted to do something… anything to help keep the flame alive.
-I had always enjoyed the concept of the 10th Dublin Vibe, with many different musicians (such as Henry Rollins, Midge Ure, Def Leppard guys, Sinead O'Connor (at a previous show)) learning songs and coming together to pay tribute to an artist that had inspired and influenced them over the years. This (kind of erroneous as it turns out) impression of what the Vibe format was, became the template for my show.
That first year, we had 6 bands and it was a great time! The last couple of years we've had 12! (and I've got some stupid ideas in my head for next year!)
Mike: The artist participation and the audience response to the event has been fabulous, have these exceeded your expectations?
-Oh certainly. I always hope for the best each year, but until I'm on stage introducing the bands to a room full of cheering people, I'm in a constant state of no-one–will-show-up-this-year panic! (laughing)
Mike: Why do you think the words and music Phil created are still so beloved and relevant 30 to 35 years later?
-In my opinion, a large part of it is the lyrical content of Lynott's music was always very poetic... and consciously or unconsciously, that stuff seems to stick. He had the soul of a romantic.
Mike: Tell us a little about the logistics and incredible personal effort required to stage this event. When for instance did you start working on this years show?
-This year, I started poking about in January, but a couple of acts had songs picked by last November!
Basically, I'm kind of a one man show. I get all of the musicians (sometimes they get me), I co-ordinate all of the song choices so that there's no repetition, I do the press releases, poster design and printing (t-shirts too, last year) and pretty much anything else that needs doing. It's a lot of work… hey, you try riding herd on 50 + musicians! (laughing) But the "night of" is always a blast… checking out the bands and enjoying the vibe of the room…
And of course, all of the ticket sale money goes to the Roisin Dubh Trust to help cover the enormous cost of putting up an amazing bronze statue of Phillip in the heart of Dublin.
Mike: Who are some of the key performers we can expect to see this year and what songs will they be playing?
-We've got a good mix of favorites from previous years like the fantastic National Anthem and Tacoma Redd (who've both played every year so far) and bands we've never had before, Like Thinkum, Crunchberry and the Last Chance Band. I'm also thrilled to have Sean O'Connor, of the 80's Irish cult band, The Lookalikes, flying 'cross the pond to come play with us. He's doing 11 shows in New York and then he's flying up to do our show! Sean had the privilege of touring with Lizzy a few times back in the day…
As far as the songs… I think this is the most diverse list yet with songs being played from every Thin Lizzy album except the first! There are some singles in there and some solo stuff too. It's going to be a treat for the fans and the new fans…
Mike: Over the years, you have communicated with and met several members of the extended Lizzy family. Tell us of a few of the more memorable of these?
-I've been very fortunate over the years to have met a bunch of the people who had so much to do with shaping Thin Lizzy. Like I mentioned before, I met Brian Robertson back in '86, in '87 I met Gary Moore (on the Wild Frontier tour) and last year I met John Sykes and had the great pleasure of meeting Eric Bell. 'Vagabonds' is one of my favorite Lizzy albums and it was great getting to shake the man's hand and tell him how much I loved his playing on that album.
Mike: What are your personal feelings with respect to John Sykes continuing to tour under the Thin Lizzy moniker? I will tell you straight up, I am dead set against it: not the touring, but the use of the hallowed Lizzy name when not one of the original three band members is involved in the current lineup.
-Yeah, I guess I'd feel better about it if they toured as a 'tribute to Thin Lizzy' or something. Like you said, it's cool that they can go out there and turn new people on to the tunes, but without Phil Lynott, who, of course, not only sang and played bass, but also wrote the vast majority of the songs, there would not have been a Lizzy at all.
Mike: Do you think any of that may explain why Sykes was not invited to participate in the event in Dublin?
-Somehow I doubt that. Gorham plays with him in new Lizzy and he'll be there. For all I know he was invited and couldn't do it.
Mike: What do you think about Gary Moore participating in this year's event? Rumour has it he is working on one last Celtic rock album a la "Wild Frontier".
-I've always been a fan of Gary's music and I can't wait to see him playing Lizzy tunes again. I loved Wild Frontier when it came out!
Mike: Are you planning to attend the events in Dublin yourself? If so, I hope you will give me a full report!!!
-Damn straight! (laughing) I wouldn't miss it for the world!
Mike: Thanks for taking this time out during what must be a very hectic time of year for you prepping this event and best of luck!!!
Questions for Philomena:
SOT: Tell us about the events planned for this summer, particularly those in which you will be personally involved?
Philomena: There have been various shows throughout the year in the U.K. and different parts of the world, but of course, the statue unveiling is the main event that we're all gearing up for this summer.
SOT: Have you had any involvement in the development of the film "My Boy"? What are your thoughts in general on the movie and specifically about Holly Hunter portraying you? The actor selected to play Phil is nowhere near as attractive as Phil was, is he?
Philomena: The film is on hold at the moment for various reasons. Obviously Holly Hunter is a great actress and I'm very honored. Hopefully it will all come to pass.
SOT: Do you know of any other as yet unreleased product, audio, video or written that may be released in the future?
Philomena: No. Not at the present time. There have been some discussions of recording the big show on the 20th of August for release at a later date, but that remains unconfirmed at the moment.
SOT: How will you personally spend the day on the twentieth anniversary of Phil's passing?
Philomena: The same as any other year. On the anniversary of Phillip's passing fans and supporters from all over the world converge on Dublin and come to the house to say hello. Then in the evening, we all gather at the annual Vibe for Philo.
SOT: How old are Sarah and Kathleen now and do they have many memories of their father? How often to you spend time with them?
Philomena: Sara is 26 and Kathleen is 25. They live in England, but whenever they're in Ireland, they bob over for a visit.
SOT: Thank you Philomena!